The Pittsburgh Penguins are far from in trouble, but if there is something to raise an eye brow about, it could be that their offence has been dropping off lately.
Sunday night the Pens were shutout 4-0 by the Nashville Predators mustering just 21 shots against Carter Hutton. Sunday’s contest highlighted the woes of the team’s offence. During the team’s last 12 games the team has struggled to find the pack of the net and because of that the team has won just four of those games.
Pittsburgh has managed just 28 goals during this stretch, an average of 2.33 goals per game. In those 12 games the team has registered just two goals or less in nine of them and shutout twice. The 28 goals might not sound too bad, but it is worse when you consider that 12 of those goals came in two games. They blew out the Western Conference’s third worst team, Minnesota Wild, 7-2 on January 13 and the Washington Capitals 5-3 on the 27th.
Those goals accounted for 43% of the team’s 28 goals over the 12 games span. The Pens have the fifth-best goals for in the East and 10th-best in the league with a 2.86 goals per game. The team is in the middle of the pack when it comes to even strength goals-for this year. The Penguins are 14th in the league with 91 goals in 50 games, an average of 1.78 even strength goals per game. They have been relying on their power play to help carry the slack, which is the fifth-best in the league and has struck 36 times.
Offence Hasn’t Come So Easy This Season
This year the offence has been carried by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The two are the only players on the team that have more than 40 points, Crosby with 52 in 46 games and Malkin with 51 in 45. Kris Letang has also been productive when he has been in the lineup, with 39 points in 44 games.
One player who has really struggled this year has been Chris Kunitz. The 35-year-old has 15 goals and just 31 points in 42 games this season. He is on pace for just 54 points in 74 games and his worst points per game total since the 2010-11 season.
What is also hurting the Penguins more than anything is the excessive amount of injuries the team has suffered this season. In fact defenceman Rob Scuderi and forward Nick Spaling are the only players to play in every game this season. Newcomers Blake Comeau and Patric Hornqvist were proving to be productive, offensive tools for the Pens with a combined 25 goals in a combined 69 games, but the two have missed a total of 31 games.
On top of that, consider the fact that Olli Maata, Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Pascal Dupuis have all missed time with the Pens this season. Also not considered is the fact that the team also said goodbye to former 40-goal man James Neal during the off-season.
As mentioned before, during their current 12 game stretch the team has averaged just 2.33 goals per game versus their season average of 2.86 goals per game. It may not sound like much, but over the course of the season it works out to a difference of 43 goals. The team is down five spots after being the fifth most offensive club last season.
Not Time to Worry Yet
The team announced Saturday that Malkin had started practicing with the team, though he wasn’t participating in all drills. The centre also didn’t take part in Sunday’s loss. The team will welcome Malkin and many other injured players back whenever they can get them. The team also plays the last place Edmonton Oilers Wednesday which should give Malkin more time to heal and a chance for the team to get back to scoring in bunches.
The Pens haven’t completely fallen off the earth and still sit second in the Metropolitan Division and only four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the East. But they will need to get back to being the deadly offensive team they have become known for if they want to challenge for a top spot in the conference heading towards the playoffs.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.